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Culture theory review of theories
 

Culture theory review of theories

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  • Molly Kaiser Queer Customs, by Clyde Kluckhohn Kluckhohns article on “Queer Customs” served as a great definition of culture using different definitions and examples to explain his views on what culture is. Culture, according to Kluckhohn, is a “design for living”. Culture is the part of the human environment that man has created. All humans are the same biologically, but depending on culture and how we are raised, we are all very different. Kluckhohn uses the example of the American boy who was raised in China. Although he had blue eyes and light colored hair, he carried himself as a person of Chinese descent. Though his biological heritage was American, he had been trained culturally as a Chinese person. He eventually returned to China after spending time in America. Each culture dissects nature and has their own reasons why and ways of dealing with nature. As an animal, human beings are interesting because they try to understand themselves and their behaviors. Although we all have different cultures, it does not mean that there is no such thing as raw human nature. Many societies and cultures have similar ideas, beliefs, and practices.
  • urbnshkr@csufresno.edu by If I understood today's class discussion correctly, we decided to comment on the Ferraro article this time instead of taking a quiz Wed. So, here are my comments: Kluckhohn correctly pointed out that human beings are unique in that we try to understand our own behavior. This is probably a core concept that people would argue makes us more intelligent, civilized, and above lesser mammalian species. He uses the examples of "queer customs" as it applies to his own culture that he grew up in. What is "queer" to one culture may be normal to another. This applies to everything from sexual practices, food consumption, religious beliefs, etc. I especially liked the example of the white teacher who couldn't understand why her Navajo pupils were so upset about a dance. It was her misunderstanding of a long-standing Navajo cultural precept that led to the misunderstanding, and just verifies the preceding statement.

Culture theory review of theories Culture theory review of theories Presentation Transcript

  • Chapter 4 The Idea of Culture A Preview/Review of Theories in Anthropology
  • Why Study Cultural Anthropology?
    • Kurt Vonnegut's answer:
    • I began with physical anthropology. I was taught how to measure the size of the brain of a human being who had been dead a long time, who was all dried out. I bored a hole in his skull, and I filled it with grains of polished rice. Then I emptied the rice into a graduated cylinder. I found this tedious.
    • I switched to archaeology, and I learned something I already knew: that man had been a maker and smasher of crockery since the dawn of time. And I went to my faculty adviser, and I confessed that science did not charm me, that I longed for poetry instead. I was depressed. I knew my wife and my father would want to kill me, if I went into poetry.
    • My adviser smiled. "How would you like to study poetry which pretends to be scientific?" he asked me.
    • "Is such a thing possible?" I said.
    • He shook my hand. "Welcome to the field of social or cultural anthropology," he said. He told me that Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead were already in it—and some sensitive gentlemen as well.
    • -Kurt Vonnegut, Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons (Opinions) , p. 176.
  • Why Study Cultural Anthropology?
    • Clifford Geertz' answer:
    • There is not much assurance or sense of closure, not even much sense of knowing what it is one precisely is after, in so indefinite a quest, amid such various people, over such a diversity of times. But it is an excellent way, interesting, dismaying, useful, and amusing, to expend a life.
    • -Clifford Geertz, After the Fact: Two
    • Countries, Four Decades, One
    • Anthropologist , p. 168.
  • Why Study Cultural Anthropology?
    • Just as the individual is not alone in the group, nor any one society alone among the others, so man is not alone in the universe.
    • When the spectrum or rainbow of human cultures has finally sunk into the void created by our frenzy….in the contemplation of a mineral more beautiful than all our creations; in the scent that can be smelt at the heart of a lily and is more imbued with learning than all our books; or in the brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat.
    • -Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques , pp. 414-415.
    • “ It would hardly be fish
    • who discovered the
    • existence of water”
    • -Kluckhohn (1949: 11)
  • Characteristics of Culture
    • Cultures are made up of learned behaviors.
    • All cultures involve the use of language and symbols.
    • Cultures are patterned and integrated.
  • Characteristics of Culture
    • Cultures are shared by members of a group.
    • Cultures are in some way adaptive.
    • Subject to change.
  • Table 4-1, p.87
  • Anthropological Understandings of Culture 19 th century evolutionism A universal human culture is shared by all societies. Turn of the century sociology Groups share sets of symbols and practices that bind them into societies. American historical particularism Cultures are the result of the specific histories of the people who share them. Functionalism Social practices support society's structure or fill the needs of individuals.
  • Anthropological Understandings of Culture Sociobiology Culture is the visible expression of underlying genetic coding. Cultural ecology and neo-evolutionism Culture is the way humans adapt to the environment and make their lives secure. Ecological materialism Physical and economic causes give rise to cultures and explain changes in them. Ethnoscience and cognitive anthropology Culture is a mental template that determines how members of a society understand their world.
  • Anthropological Understandings of Culture Anthropology and gender Roles of women and ways societies understand sexuality are central to understanding culture. Symbolic and interpretive anthropology Culture is the way members of a society understand themselves and what gives their lives meaning. Postmodernism Cultural understanding reflects the observer’s biases and can never be completely or accurately described.
  • Question
    • Perhaps the most difficult aspect of trying to understand the beliefs and practices of another culture is
        • determining the meaning of what the anthropologist has observed or experienced for members of the culture.
        • Assessing the political impact of a particular event.
        • take field notes while being a participant-observer.
        • learning their language.
        • finding a direct parallel in one's own culture with that of another culture.
  • Answer: a
    • Perhaps the most difficult aspect of trying to understand the beliefs and practices of another culture is determining the meaning of what the anthropologist has observed or experienced for members of the culture .
  • Culture and Personality Theorists
    • Anthropologists who examine the theoretical perspective that focuses on culture as the principal force in shaping the personality of a society as well as on the role of personality in the maintenance of cultural institutions.
  • Cultural Ecology
    • Regards cultural patterns as adaptive responses to the problems of human survival and reproduction.
  • Sociobiology
    • Explores the relationship between human cultural behavior and genetics.
  • Cognitive Anthropology
    • Defines culture in terms of the rules and meanings underlying human behavior, rather than behavior itself.
  • Ethnoscience
    • A theoretical approach that focuses on the ways in which members of a culture classify their world and holds that anthropology should be the study of cultural systems of classification.
  • Ethnobotany
    • Describes the ways in which different cultures classify plants.
  • Ethnomedicine
    • An anthropological discipline devoted to describing the medical systems of different cultures.
  • Structural Anthropology
    • A theoretical approach that holds that all cultures reflect similar, underlying patterns and that anthropologists should attempt to decipher these patterns.
  • Interpretive Anthropology
    • Culture is a system of meaning and the aim of cultural anthropology is to interpret the meanings that cultural acts have for their participants.
  • Functionalism
    • Specific cultural institutions function to support the structure of society or serve the needs of individuals in society.
    • Early functionalists include Émile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Meyer Fortes, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, and Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard.
  • Ecological Functionalism
    • Theoretical approach that holds that the ways in which cultural institutions work can best be understood by examining their effects on the environment.
  • neo-Evolutionism
    • Concerned with the historical change of culture from small-scale societies to large-scale societies.
  • neo-Marxism
    • Theoretical perspective concerned with applying the insights of Marxist thought to anthropology; neo-Marxists modify Marxist analysis to make it appropriate to the investigation of small-scale, non-Western societies.
  • Question
    • Which present-day theoretical orientations look at culture as dynamic and unstable, where norms and values are continually being "contested" or reinforced?
        • cultural ecology and cultural materialism
        • neo-evolutionary
        • feminism, postmodernism
        • structuralism
        • symbolic/interpretive
  • Answer: c
    • Feminism and postmodernism orientations look at culture as dynamic and unstable, where norms and values are continually being "contested" or reinforced.
    • Anthropologists who are primarily concerned with human behavior, especially subsistence technology and its relationship to other aspects of culture, generally adhere to all except which one of the following theoretical orientations?
        • cultural materialism
        • neo-evolutionism
        • cultural ecology
        • cognitive anthropology
    Question
  • Answer: d
    • Anthropologists who are primarily concerned with human behavior, especially subsistence technology and its relationship to other aspects of culture, generally don’t adhere to the cognitive anthropology theoretical orientation
  • Is Culture Integrated?
    • Holistic perspective understands culture as a system of interrelated parts.
    • Functionalism holds that cultural institutions serve the needs of individuals in society.
  • Cultural Materialism
    • Theoretical perspective that holds that the primary task of anthropology is to account for the similarities and differences among cultures.
    • This can best be done by studying the material constraints to which human existence is subject.
  • Culture is Shared?
    • Members share ways of thinking and behaving.
    • Subcultures have different values than the dominant culture.
    • Shared ideas may be the result of human interaction rather than the cause.
  • Is Culture Shared?
    • Some contemporary neo-Marxist, postmodern, and feminist anthropologists hold that culture is a context in which norms and values are contested.
    • Rather than assuming a cultural core of shared beliefs and values, these anthropologists try to describe the processes through which norms and values are subverted and maintained.
  • Norms and Values
    • Norm An ideal cultural pattern that influences behavior in a particular society.
    • Value A culturally defined idea of what is true, right, and beautiful.
  • Subculture
    • A system of perceptions, values, beliefs, and customs that are significantly different from those of a larger, dominant culture within the same society.
  • Culture and Adaptation
    • Populations adapt to the environment so that they can survive and reproduce.
    • Plasticity is the ability of humans to change their behavior in response to environmental demands.
  • Question
    • An illustration of the plasticity of culture would be the development of a new type of sunscreen to avoid the adverse effects of solar radiation on the human body.
        • True
        • False
  • Answer: a
    • An illustration of the plasticity of culture would be the development of a new type of sunscreen to avoid the adverse effects of solar radiation on the human body.
  • Organizing the World
    • Culture allows humans to organize their world.
    • Culture transforms physical reality into experienced reality.
    • Anthropologists study systems of organization used by individual cultures.
  • Giving Meaning to Lives
    • Culture allows people to understand:
      • Who they are.
      • How they should act in the world.
    • The symbols of culture are often found in religious rituals.
  • Cultural Change
    • Changes may come from within or outside of a culture.
    • Cultural change can result from:
      • Invasions by a foreign culture
      • Revolution
      • Epidemic diseases
  • Cultural Change
    • Innovation A new variation on an existing cultural pattern that is subsequently accepted by others members of the society.
    • Diffusion The spread of cultural elements from one culture to another through cultural contact.
  • Cultural Contact
    • No culture is free of outside influences.
    • Direct cultural contact can cause far-reaching changes.
    • Modern technology has affected almost every culture on earth.
  • Transculturation
    • The transformation of adopted cultural traits, resulting in new cultural forms.
  • Quick Quiz
    • 1. A culture may be characterized by all except which one of the following?
        • variability among individuals and groups within the culture
        • basically a highly integrated, static system
        • provides members with a system of classification for understanding the world
        • includes norms or guidelines for behavior
        • provides a context in which people give meanings to their lives
  • Answer: b
    • A culture may not be characterized by basically a highly integrated, static system .
    • 2. Anthropologists often choose to focus on communities or groups who are significantly different from those of the larger, dominant culture within the same society, such as Amish, Hmong, and people who share a similar occupation e.g., firefighters or age e.g., elderly. These groups are referred to as
        • ethnic groups.
        • the socioeconomically disadvantaged.
        • minorities.
        • subcultures.
        • geographical regions.
  • Answer: d
    • Anthropologists often choose to focus on communities or groups who are significantly different from those of the larger, dominant culture within the same society, such as Amish, Hmong, and people who share a similar occupation e.g., firefighters or age e.g., elderly. These groups are referred to as subcultures .
    • 3. Anthropologists with training in ethnoscience and/or cognitive anthropology might carry out which of the following research projects?
      • investigating social networks of single mothers
      • eliciting the categories of foods that make up a ceremonial meal
      • measurement of rice yield in rural Japanese villages
      • cross-cultural survey of the relationship between type of marriage and traditional type of subsistence
  • Answer: b
    • Anthropologists with training in ethnoscience and/or cognitive anthropology might carry out a research projects eliciting the categories of foods that make up a ceremonial meal .
    • 4. Which of the following anthropological research projects would be considered a good example of an interpretive/symbolic approach?
        • an exploration of cricket as a commentary on British culture
        • the ecological function of Hindu beliefs regarding not eating beef
        • the role of 'homegardens' in household economy
        • the social structure of middle-class Brazilian households
        • classification of medicinal plants by Samoan elders
  • Answer: a
    • An exploration of cricket as a commentary on British culture would be considered a good example of an interpretive/symbolic approach.
  • p.104
    • Queer Customs,
    • Clyde Kluckhohn
    • “ It would hardly be fish
    • who discovered the
    • existence of water”
    • -Kluckhohn (1949: 11)
  • Queer Customs, Clyde Kluckhohn (Molly Kaiser, A student of Intro Anthro SP07)
    • Culture is a “ design for living” (Kluckhohn)
      • Culture is the “human-made” part of the human environment.
      • All humans are the same biologically, our difference is dependent on culture.
    • Example:
      • The American boy who was raised in China.
        • Blue eyes and light colored hair but he carried himself as Chinese.
        • Though his biological heritage was American, he had been trained culturally as a Chinese person.
      • Each culture dissects nature and has their own ways of responding to nature.
  • Queer Customs,Clyde Kluckhohn (The nameless one [email_address] )
    • Human beings are unique in that we try to understand our own behavior ( Kluckhohn ) .
      • This core concept makes us more intelligent, civilized, and above lesser mammalian species (as the argument goes).
    • What is "queer" to one culture may be normal to another (e.g., sex practices, food consumption, religious beliefs).
      • He uses his own culturally relative "queer customs".
    • Example: The “White” teacher who couldn't understand why her Navajo pupils were so upset about a dance.
      • It was her misunderstanding of a long-standing Navajo cultural precept that led to the misunderstanding.
  • Possible exam Q
    • Provide an example of Kluckhorn’s notion of “Queer culture” and define what he might have meant in terms of cultural relativism?